Inside The Wilk In Prince Edward County, A Hip Mid-Century Modern Getaway
“Escape to the County” (yes, County not country) is an expression rolling off the tongues of many urbanities as Prince Edward County — a community located roughly two hours outside of Toronto — continues to draw visitors in droves. The area is home to countless wineries, restaurants and the Insta-famous Drake Devonshire Inn; even Prince Charles, Camilla, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Justin Trudeau have flocked to PEC. Vogue affectionately nicknamed PEC ‘The Hudson Valley of Canada’ in an article last summer.
If you’re looking for a cool spot to stay in the County we’re eyeing The Wilk, a charming farmhouse built in the 1850s that was recently revived with a helping of hip mid-century modern style. We caught up with The Wilk’s owners, Jaime Kowal and Aaron David, to hear the story behind their cool-as-can-be Airbnb.
House & Home: The Wilk definitely has a strong mid-century modern aesthetic. What attracted you to that ’70s style, and why did you decide to use it throughout this space?
Jamie Kowal: The sexy ’70s vibe emerged from a desire to create a celebratory space where people could really feel they’ve escaped. My business partner, Aaron David, and I are design purists at heart. We spent a lot of time carefully curating a balance between clean-lined mid-century modern teak furniture, geometric shag and pony rugs, vintage wall hangings, original handmade weavings and dog art!
H&H: Is the lighting vintage for the most part? Did you have to have it all rewired?
JK: We have a combination of new and vintage lighting to strike a balance between old and new. We really love our Cedar & Moss Pearl Sconces (not pictured) in the upstairs landing but equally love all of our vintage finds. We had our electrician rewire some of the vintage pieces for us.
H&H: Speaking of dog artwork, what’s the story behind that?
JK: Aaron and I were looking for a theme for the art curation, and we considered a number of approaches including vintage Canadian cross country skiing artwork and other far-fetched and funny ideas. We came across a classic collection of nine vintage dog portraits at Door Number Two in Toronto and wondered if we could carry that theme throughout.
H&H: Who new dog artwork could be edgy!
JK: The idea evolved to include art that featured both dogs along with supermodels or rock ‘n’ roll references, like the piece in this room. It was really about the creative challenge of finding something beautiful but tongue-in-cheek as well. Aaron and I are both dog owners and dog lovers and couldn’t be happier to host our furry friends as guests. A lot of rentals in the County won’t accept dogs, but we do!
H&H: You’ve incorporated a killer collection of photography, too. Where did it all come from?
JK: Aaron and I had a lot of laughs curating the art and photography collection for The Wilk. It’s a combination of vintage and thrift store finds and we drew from the Condé Nast Archives, which offers some incredible thematic throwback imagery. The creative challenge was to curate a collection that still felt elegant and relevant but also had another layer of humor and lightheartedness.
H&H: This bedroom door is stunning. That must have been a salvaged find?
JK: That particular door was originally hanging in the downstairs bathroom. It’s such a gorgeous door and we thought it deserved a more dramatic backdrop, so we moved it upstairs to the master bedroom as a focal point.
H&H: What was the furnishing process like as a whole?
JK: It was definitely a labor of love! Aaron and I drove all over Southern Ontario to pick up key items we felt would define the space. It felt like the ultimate scavenger hunt and it began as soon as we closed on the house (even before construction started). We spent months and months obsessively combing vintage stores both in the County and all over Toronto. We scoured Instagram, Kijiji and Craigslist to find the best combination of art, furniture, lighting and accessories.
H&H: What was your vision for the kitchen and was it renovated from scratch?
JK: Yes, we tore the original kitchen out and started from scratch. Aaron and I reconfigured the space and removed a walk-in pantry and a wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the room. Our vision was that it would be open, airy, functional, minimal and warm all at the same time.
H&H: Can you tell us about those backsplash tiles and what drew you to them?
JK: Adding an element that was textured and unique felt important in the kitchen. Tile really informs a space so we spent quite a long time finding the right one. Ultimately, we chose the Sofia tile in Lemongrass by Walker Zanger and purchased it at Surfaces & Co. in Toronto.
H&H: The wooden support beams throughout the house are amazing. Were they all in tact or did you have to do some structural reconstruction?
JK: They are amazing! The beams were all in tact, and actually no structural issues at all. It’s mind boggling sometimes to look at the size of the beams and dream about the history behind them.
H&H: You’ve used some killer wallpaper. Can you tell me about why you chose those particular papers?
JK: The wallpaper really has had a dramatic effect and has ultimately transformed each room. We felt it was important to build layers of detail and texture into the space and it was a great way to continue the ’70s narrative. We had a blast picking out a number of vintage Italian wallpaper rolls we found on Etsy and made sure they all complemented each other. The patterns and colors are different but they all contribute to the same story.
H&H: Were you and Aaron on the same page with most pieces or did you have design debates?
JK: We’d compared notes and new finds every day until all the pieces finally fell into place and we felt we could confidently introduce The Wilk to the world.
H&H: How long did it take to furnish the entire place?
JK: The interiors themselves took nine months.
H&H: What attracted you to this home in the first place?
JK: We were originally drawn to the house because of its incredibly clean lines, gorgeous original barn wood beams, floor-to-ceiling windows and dramatic soaring A-frame architecture.
H&H: And how long did it take to renovate the property?
JK: The renovation was more involved than we originally thought but it still only took a total of six months. We got the keys in September 2017 and opened for business in March of 2018.
H&H: Prince Edward County is definitely “having a moment” so to speak right now. What is it about the County that you think is attracting so many creatives to flock there?
JK: The County is a very special place where wine, food culture, farming, beaches and pastoral landscapes have become a serious draw for people looking for an antidote to their busy urban lives. Many of our neighbors, friends and guests are attracted to, or enmeshed in, the arts and food scene from urban centers in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. It’s a very fast-growing tourism market which draws on the over 10 million people within 200kms of the County. At its heart, the County is spectacularly beautiful and it is truly revitalizing to spend a weekend there.
H&H: Do you have any future plans for The Wilk property?
JK: Yes, as a matter of fact. Aaron and I call this house The Wilk, but we are calling the overall property itself The Wilky Way because we’re planning to continue to develop the 15 acres and add additional accommodation.